"I even have trouble understanding the Mondegreens."

I mostly listen to instrumental music because I can’t understand what people are singing. One of those major effects of CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder).
*Mondegreen (noun)
“A misunderstood or misinterpreted word or phrase resulting from a mishearing of the lyrics of a song.”
~ Oxford Dictionary

B is for Bob, C is for –

“Eek, a bee!” yelped the little girl as her mother paid for some flowers at the nursery register.
“Oh, that’s just Bob; he can’t sting you.  He’s a carpenter bee.” I explained, holding an open hand up toward where Bob was doing loop-de-loops.  But my repeated explanations aside, most people were not buying Bob’s reported status as a gentlebee-ing.  Let’s face it, an inch-long bee flying around you is hardly subtle.
Not but a couple days later, I came in to work and found a patio-style citronella candle lit near the entrance. Our manager had lit it in hopes of deterring Bob, who had been joined by another male.  Like two World War 1 flying aces, they were staging aerial dogfights.  “They’re not out to get anyone,” I told the other employees, “it’s territorial.”  That didn’t mollify anyone, but fortunately Bob prevailed and his rival left the scene.
“Wow, that’s a BIG bumblebee!” exclaimed a customer.
“It’s a carpenter bee.  They have the shiny, dark abdomens, like a brand-new pair of carpenter jeans.  Bumbles are furry all over.  See the white on his face?  That means he’s a male.  The males can’t sting.”  I’ve never been stung by carpenter bees or bumbless, and have even petted them.
My current computer wallpaper is my photo of a female — isn’t she just adorable?! (more story below):

A large bee with a black head and abdomen, and a gold, furry thorax nectaring on Queen Anne's Lace
A large bee with a black head & abdomen and a gold, furry thorax, nectaring on Queen Anne's Lace

Carpenter bees (Hymenoptera, Family Apidae: Xylocopa virginica) get their name because they dig tunnels in dead wood.  They use these for rearing offspring, and for overwintering.  Painting wood is the easiest deterrent for preventing structures from being bored into.  I couldn’t see anything in the garden center “tent” that would be a great place for setting up housekeeping (the only wooden structures nearby were thin shipping pallets), so I figured that Bob had decided that the garden center was the ne plus ultra of food resources, with its thousands of blossoms.
Like other bees, carpenters are valuable as pollinators, and like orchardists, you can buy (or make) bee blocks in hopes of attracting some.  Once in a while the bees will take a short-cut and “rob” a flower by chewing through the base to get directly to the nectar. (‘nother pix, still more story)
White-faced male carpenter bee stealing necar from Columbine flower
White-faced male carpenter bee stealing necar from pink Columbine flower

While the males are hanging around being territorial, the females are busy stocking their offsprings’ larder with pollen & nectar balls.  Each of their several eggs gets its own foodball and wood-pulp partition.  Once the larva have hatched, eaten up their food, and metamorphosed into adults, they then chew through the wee shoji-screens, crawling over their siblings to go out and start the process over again.
Recently, Bob was nowhere to be seen.  Our manager explained that when he was cleaning up the other night, he realized that the broom made a great fly-swatter.  Apparently I looked dismayed, because he went on to explain that something unexpected happened the next day.  “Bob’s brother or cousin or friend or who-ever moved in, several of them!”
This made me laugh.  ” ‘Nature abhors a vacuum.’ There was an opening in the territory!”
But our story has a serendipitous ending.  As the days have grown hotter, our manager brought out a standing fan to help keep everyone cool as they stand by the register.  Apparently carpenter bees are befuddled — or bothered — by the steady stream of air, and they left to hang around elsewhere.
“Oh, that’s fabulous! You worked with their behavior, not against it.  You always get better results that way, whether it’s insects, students, or employees.  That was really clever.”

A Luxury

Being bored is a luxury I do not have.
Not the boredom that is the enforced tedium from being exhausted by illness, or from waiting and waiting for indeterminate periods of time without diversions. But rather, the boredom that comes from choosing to be disinterested at work.
Sure, some jobs are seriously duller than others, such as data entry or assembly.  But retail is considerably more interesting than such rote perfectionism.
And yet, the other week one of my coworkers was complaining that he found the work at the garden center to be so BORING.  It wasn’t related to his chosen degree program or career.
Certainly, I don’t expect everyone else to be as entertained as I am by “facing” the plant stock, meaning filling more pots into the gaps shoppers have left in the flats.  I really like lining up four-packs or pots, or bringing forwards pots from the back of the benches up to the front so they are more accessible to the buyers.  The quick detail makes everything neat and tidy and complete.  Even shuffling pots from a nearly-empty flat (tray) to fill another is satisfying, because then we have that flat available for a shopper to use as they are selecting their plants.  (Not only does handing out flats free up people’s over-burdened hands, but there’s also a bit of sales psychology, where buyers are more likely to buy a few extra pots to complete the flat.)
And to be sure, there are a number of people who find “grooming” the plants (removing old flowers and dying leaves) to be just too utterly nit-picky and grubby a past-time.  But I enjoy this because I know that removing the dead material will help ensure that the plants keep blooming, will lesson the chance of disease and insect problems, and simply makes everything look better.  (A lot of novice gardeners will mistake the natural “senescence” or shedding of yellowing old leaves as a symptom of disease.)
And of course, most of the garden center cashiers are not horticulturalists; they are cashiers with some basic training in how to water and what the difference is between annuals and perennials.  But that’s what I’m there for, to provide the expertise in answering questions, and helping customers select plants for different sites.
So despite the varying levels of intrinsic reward in some of the activities, and the vast differences in personal expertise, all of the cashiers can still gain the same kinds of satisfaction in their work.  There’s still the basic premise of serving others, even if we’re just loading bags of mulch into someone’s car.
Because that’s what we’re there for.
So when my coworker complains of being bored, and spends most of his time hidden behind the cash register (checking something on his mobile phone) or wandering around aimlessly listening to his music or chatting with a girlfriend, well, I am mystified.  And a bit annoyed.
Because like, dude, “fun” is something you make, not something that happens to you.
If you’re bored, then get involved.  Help me come up with better ways of displaying the new stock that is more aesthetically appealling and more accessible, like the other evening cashier does.  Go out and actively assist the customers, like the other cashiers do.
If the custom is slow during that lull before people get off work, then make a point to do some of the things that are on the To Do list.  That’s why I’m not bored — I not only do when I have been asked to do as an employee, but I also look for other things to do.
If I’m knee-deep in cleaning the spent blossoms from the hanging baskets and watering the stock, then don’t hide out behind the register.  I shouldn’t have to mention, “Hey, that lady over there has her hands full — go get her a shopping cart.” [buggy, trolley]
It’s awkward when your coworker is slacking off, but you’re not a supervisor.  I’ve tried stating, “X, Y and Z need doing,” but that cue was apparently too subtle.  I’ve tried offering, “I’ll do W and X if you don’t mind doing Y and Z,” but that produced nothing more than a half-hearted attempt at Y and Z disappeared somewhere along the way.
There’s no reason to be bored at a job like this.  There are too many different things to do, whether it’s tending the plant stock or chit-chatting with the customers while you ring up their purchases.
And you know what?  Working in a half-assed way and complaining of being “bored” does not help ensure employability, especially in these economic times.
I’m not working two jobs just for the fun of it; I work because I need the income.  But despite that, despite that some days I’m cold and wet and stiff and sore due to the exertion and the weather and my health issues, despite that, I still find ways of enjoying my work.
I can’t afford to be bored.

Manfred would like to comment

We have a new roomer.
Manfred appeared on the front door the other day. He was interested in someplace to stay, perhaps spend the winter.  Well, okay.  I found a room. (Hey, anyone that can do something about these intermittent flies that keep finding their way into the kitchen is certainly welcome in my book).
This evening Manfred the Mantid wanted to post a comment.

Praying mantis on a Macbook screen, tapping on the "New Comment" button of a Word program toolbar.
A large male praying mantis on a Macbook screen, tapping on the

Unlike the cockroach of the Archy and Mehitabel stories, Manfred isn’t much of a typist.  I did get the general drift, though.
“Where are the moths?”
That’s what I was wondering, too.  Flies are dandy, but I’ve not been able to find my insect net in months, so was stocking up on moths for room service.  (There are lots of Monarch butterflies and honeybees on the asters out front, but I’m not about to sacrifice the former or catch the latter.  Call me specist, but the Noctuid moths are hardly endangered.)
Well, I turned on the porch light, and return an hour or two later to snag moths.  Leastwise, that was my plan.  After letting in a cat, I found myself standing out there and wondering, “Where are the moths?”
A moth.  A single, solitary moth.  I finally grabbed it, and popped it into Manfred’s room.
The next morning there were the expected wings littering the ground in the midden corner, as there’s no good eatin’ in wings.  Need more moths.  After a couple minutes of really pathetic tries, I finally grabbed a fat skipper (butterfly) and a bee-fly out near the mailbox.  These were dispatched in due order, and while I was checking the weather forecast, Manfred attended to his toilette, pulling a hind leg up to nibble down the length, and then cleaning off the antennae in a manner that is very reminiscent of cats washing their faces. (Mantids make me look stiff in comparison.)
A mantid grooming its hind leg
A mantid grooming its hind leg

Tomorrow I need to do some better hunting. Meanwhile, Manfred is hanging upside-down, perhaps digesting.
Or maybe still working on interspecific telepathy: “Where are the moths?”

Dark, stormy days

It’s not just the weather.
Christschool’s recent post, “Fleeting Innocence, Captured Before It’s Gone” got me thinking and connecting distant points, much in the manner of the orb-weaver spider that connects a broadening spiral of nodes across our back door each night.
We slide further into a scarier world.  It is not just a world where there is less freedom and diversity plus more violence and hate-crime, but rather a world that not only publicly accepts and condones, but even demands the necessity of violence.
It’s there in the realm of education, where the requirements for instruction and inclusion have created new opportunities for some spiteful people to create long-lasting terror for those forcibly obliged to attend.  When children are harassed and bullied and tormented in school to the point they finally react, their persecutors (and those who allow such events to continue) strike back and complain, “We must be allowed to forcibly control and harm those misbehaving children so we can ‘protect’ everyone.”
It’s there in the realm of employment, where the openness of accommodations and efforts of ordinary people to use them for work, shopping and leisure has provided some people with new bases for the discrimination and harassment of their coworkers, employees, and customers.  “They shouldn’t be there if they don’t want to deal with the problems they’re going to create by existing in the public sphere.  It’s too much money or trouble, or uses up resources that Real People need.  They should just stay at home or be gotten rid of.”
It’s there in the realm of national security, where anyone who is suspected of activity can be detained for years without legal process, and tortured as well.  Even ordinary, law-abiding citizens cannot expect to have the same safeguards for rights and liberties that they used to.  “Freedom isn’t free.”
Whereas violence was previously ignored, or dismissed as unimportant, or officially diminished (downgraded) as being less severe than it was, now we have an increasing number of situations where violence is seen as not only inevitable, but also as excusable, desirable, beneficial and even necessary.
Freedom and safety are obverse and reverse of the same coin; when we seek to increase one, we lose more of the other.
Sadly, as economic and political times get more anxious, groups of people withdraw back to their tribal units in paranoia.  The backward, rigid end of conservatism or tribalism reacts to uncertainty and fear by enforcing greater controls.  To some, eliminating tolerance for the Other and superstitiously making sacrifices to appease divine forces seems to be the only way to ward off Bad Things from happening.  Somebody has to pay.  It must be Somebody’s fault.  If Somebody who isn’t behaving exactly as the codes specify is punished, then divine pleasure might be gained.  If Somebody can be blamed for causing our problems, then swift and great revenge is appropriate and balance will be restored.
But scapegoating and harming the few of the outgroup does nothing to ensure that all are safe.  Hardly anyone in the larger public will even listen, and most don’t even want to hear what’s really happening.  We are sinking in insidious evil that is frosted-over in colourful “truthiness” sugar-coating, and is obscured by galas of newslessness about celebrity foibles and the nonsense over manufactroversies.  The bits that do get reported are so shouted-over with “spin” that great chunks of the public can’t even hear them, much less realise the cognitive dissonance.  Such platitudes are just the 21st-century version of Orwellian Newspeak, where we are being sold the terrifying message that

“PAIN IS SAFETY”

Don’t you believe it.  Be careful when there seems to be a break in the clouds; sometimes it’s just the eye of the hurricane.

Backwards Symphonies

“It’s been a long week — I bet you’re ready to decompose.”
I stared at my husband, blinking through the mental fog of too-many-jobs-not-enough-sleep.
“I’m not ready for the compost pile yet,” I replied, trying to figure out what his latest malapropism was meant to be.
“Or whatever the term is,” he added.
My brain finally catches up. “Decompress,” I answered.
What an incredibly long week.  I can’t remember the last time I had one like this, and in my over-busy world that’s saying something.
Wednesday last week I had a pneumonia vaccination, which left my arm so sore I couldn’t take off my jogbra without assistance, nor even get my hand up to head level until the weekend.  Moreover, Continue reading Backwards Symphonies